Coronavirus infections are surging again in the region of northern Italy where the pandemic first took hold in Europe, renewing pressure on hospitals and health care workers.
At Milan’s San Paolo Hospital, a ward dedicated to COVID-19 patients and outfitted with breathing machines reopened over the weekend, a sign that the city and the surrounding Lombardy region is entering another emergency phase of the pandemic.
The region was the hardest hit area of Italy in the spring, when Italy spent weeks with the world’s highest reported virus-related death toll before being overtaken by the United States. For the medical personnel in Lombardy who fought the virus the first time around, the long-predicted rebound came too soon.
“On a psychological level, I have to say I still have not recovered,” said nurse Cristina Settembrese, referring to the period in March and April when the region accounted for one-third of Italy’s confirmed cornavirus cases and nearly half of Italy’s COVID-19 deaths.
“In the last five days, I am seeing many people who are hospitalized who need breathing support,” Settembrese said. “I am reliving the nightmare, with the difference that the virus is less lethal.”
Months after Italy eased one of the globe’s strictest lockdowns, the country on Wednesday posted its highest daily number of new cases with 7,332 — surpassing the previous high of 6,557 that was recorded during the virus’s most deadly phase in March.
Lombardy is again leading the nation in case numbers, an echo of the traumatic spring months when ambulance sirens pierced the silence of stilled cities.